March 2, 2020 / 8:02 PM / a month ago

Germany confirms at least 28 new coronavirus infections

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany on Monday confirmed at least 28 new coronavirus cases, bringing the number of infections in Europe’s most populous country to 157 from 129 on Sunday, the Robert Koch Institute for disease control said, adding the risk was now “moderate”.

FILE PHOTO: A sign written in German announcing that protective masks and hand sanitiser are sold out is seen at a pharmacy in Berlin, Germany, February 29, 2020. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

More than half of the cases - 90 - are in the large western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, where several schools and day care centres remained closed on Monday to try to prevent the spread of the virus after staff members tested positive.

Lothar Wieler, president of the Robert Koch Institute, said that authorities had traced the origin of 140 cases in Germany.

Most of the known coronavirus cases in Germany have been mild so far. Authorities have reported no deaths in connection with the new virus.

Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Monday it was up to local authorities to decide whether to hold large events in Europe’s largest economy after Switzerland on Friday banned events drawing more than 1,000 people due to the disease.

“The federal government has formulated some parameters in the crisis committee but...the Infection Protection Act foresees that the decision is in the hands of local authorities,” Spahn told a news conference.

The organizers of the International Craftsman Fair said on Monday they decided to cancel the business event, scheduled to take place in Munich from March 11-15, as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of the highly infectious disease.

Germany’s ITB Tourism Fair - which was due to take place this week - has been cancelled due to the spread of the coronavirus, organizers Messe Berlin GmbH said on Friday.

Carmaker BMW said on Monday that an employee in Munich had been tested positive for novel coronavirus.

Some 150 people at BMW’s research and development centre are being quarantined at home for two weeks after coming into contact with the infected colleague, a BMW spokesman added.

Vodafone confirmed that one of its German employees was infected with the virus.

“We can confirm that several of our employees in the UK have been in contact with a person visiting the office, who has tested positive for the coronavirus,” a Vodafone spokesperson added. “As a precautionary measure, we have identified those employees and asked that they work from home.”

Reporting by Riham Alkousaa and Michael Nienaber in Berlin, Paul Sandle in London; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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